Monthly Archives: October 2016

Kossar’s Bagels & Bialys

Three everything bagels from Kossar's Bagels & Bialys

I have a huge thing for bagels, and I’ve spent a lot of time scouring this city for some that happen to be allergy-friendly. I’ve found a few, but none that are quite what I’m looking for when I’m craving a classic NYC bagel…that is, with the exception of those you’ll find at Kossar’s. These—these—are precisely the bagels of my dreams.

Before eating at Kossar’s, I spent a few days emailing back and forth with Evan Giniger, who has owned the store since 2013. Rather than trying to summarize, I’ll just paste the relevant bits below. (I’ve taken the liberty of splicing some emails together, but otherwise, what follows is exactly what I received.)

We do not use any nuts in the production of anything we make at the store. We do use seeds though, which you say below are fine.

Some of the packaged products like babka and cookies are made in an outside facility that does use nuts in other products.   While anything we sell does not have any nuts in them and all come in wrapped, we do sometimes sample them in the store, meaning technically would be possible for cross contamination to have occurred outside our store.

We do sell peanut butter and Nutella spreads in the store at the counter and it is possible that a knife might come in contact with one of those.

All of our spreads are prepared in house in a kitchen area that would also prepare things with sesame seeds, Nutella, and things like that.  I can not say for sure that there is no cross contamination and again if you are very sensitive or concerned at all I would avoid them.  We only have one set of knives we use for everything.

So my two answers are no, we do not use nuts in any of our products, but if you are highly allergic, I would advise that you do not take any risks and refrain from eating at our location.

So Kossar’s isn’t the most clear-cut of cases. But Giniger is refreshingly honest and allergy-aware—and the bagels themselves seem to be pretty low-risk, as they don’t (well, shouldn’t) come into contact with any nuts at any point in their production. So I am comfortable eating at Kossar’s…with some limitations. I’m not too bothered by the potential in-store samplings, but I am bothered by the nutty spreads. (The above emails mention only Nutella, but Kossar’s has almond butter, too.) So given the whole one-set-of-knives thing, I avoid not only the spreads, but the fish, etc., too.

Bialys at Kossar's Bagels & Bialys

That leaves only two options for the nut-allergic stubborn person/bagel-craver who wishes to eat at Kossar’s: unadulterated bagels and unadulterated bialys—which is sort of unfortunate, given how much other awesome shit they sell. But it’s fine, really, because their bagels, even plain, are seriously some of this city’s best. Finally, I’ve found them: nut-free bagels that don’t suck. (Take that, Thomas. Also, fuck you.)

A Kossar’s bagel is fluffy, dense, and chewy, just as a bagel should be. It doesn’t need toasting, nor does it need accoutrements (though they’re a welcome addition, no doubt). Inexplicably, it’ll be warm or warm-ish around 4 times out of 5, clock-hour be damned. The everything bagels are perfectly seasoned, with just enough salt to make them interesting—but I don’t mind an undressed plain bagel every now and then, either. (Not if it’s as good as those at Kossar’s, at least. If you think I’m going to eat an undressed plain bagel from Baz, you’ve got another think coming.)

A Kossar's everything bagel with scallion cream cheese from Baz Bagel

When I get bored of undressed Kossar’s bagels, I’ll usually pick up some cream cheese (scallion, from nearby Baz) and dip my bagel(s) into it, like the baboon I really am. (Process pictured immediately above—except it usually takes place while on the move.)  And when I’m in the mood to pretend I don’t have food allergies, I’ll usually pick up some cream cheese and some lox, then take everything home and assemble it to my liking. Sure, it’d be nice to be able to let the folks at Kossar’s do all that for me—but it’s not so bad to have to do it on my own. (Nothing can upset me, really, when there are good bagels coming my way.)

By the way (and this should be more than a “by the way,” but whatever), the bialys, pictured in baskets above, are great, too. The onion ones are my favorite, but the others are good, too—and whichever I end up with, I like to take them home and toast them, patience permitting. They’re just so doughy, almost like an extra-thick, extra-chewy pizza crust. Honestly, they’re right around as good as the bagels. (And that’s a high compliment. Trust me.)

Anyway, I’m absolutely in love with Kossar’s, even though I can’t eat, like, 98% of the things they sell. The bagels are easily good enough to keep me coming back, despite the fact that there literally isn’t a train that’ll take me from my neighborhood to anywhere near Kossar’s. It’s a 30-minute walk—but there’s nothing that can keep me away.

Find Kossar’s at 367 Grand Street, between Essex and Clinton.

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Cascadian Farm Organic Granola & Granola Bars

Four Cascadian Farm Vanilla Chip granola bars

Allergy-friendly granola bars are pretty tough to find. Quaker Chewy Bars are all right, but most come with “may contain” warnings—and Special K bars, which work for me, grow old after a box or two. Don’t Go Nuts‘s bars aren’t granola, nor are Enjoy Life‘s; MadeGood‘s are tiny and unsatisfying, and 88 Acres‘s are nearly impossible to find. Pickings are slim, I tell you. Slim indeed.

Are nut-free (just nut-free—not gluten-free or dairy-free or taste-free) granola bars really so ludicrous a request? Apparently, yes.

One brand that works for me, though, is Cascadian Farm. At first glance, the company doesn’t look all that allergy-friendly—plenty of their products contain almonds, for example—but it isn’t all that bad, as far as regular (i.e. not allergen-free) companies go.

I spent a few weeks trying (in such vain) trying to get Cascadian Farm to give me a straight answer on whether they label for shared lines, etc. via email before finally giving in and picking up the phone, at which point I found out that they’ll issue “may contain” warnings for the top 8 allergens (plus sesame, sunflower, and mollusks) if there’s any concern whatsoever of cross-contamination.

I pressed further—a lot of companies will say similar things and then go on to not label for shared lines, for example—but everything I was told sounded pretty promising. Corporate answers can be tough to decode, even when they’re coming from an actual human being on the other end of a phone line—but the gist, from what I gathered, was that Cascadian Farm does label for shared lines, shared facilities, and (according to the representative I spoke with) anything other factors that may be cause for concern.

I’m comfortable, then, with any of their products that don’t have a warning printed on the box (or bag). And their bars—well, a lot of them, at least—don’t come bearing any such warnings, so I guess I have to be on board.

Four unwrapped Cascadian Farm Vanilla Chip granola bars

Taste-wise, the bars are nothing special—actually, they’re sort of dull, even as granola bars go—but they’re much, much better than those put out by most decidedly allergen-free companies. My favorite flavor is the Vanilla Chip, made with oats, crisped rice, and white chocolate chips. As a whole, it isn’t particularly flavorful, but the chip-heavy bites really do it for my sweet tooth, which is probably why I find myself coming back to these bars over and over (and over).

Chocolate Chip is very similar, though a little less sweet (duh—it’s the same bar, with the white chocolate swapped out for semisweet) and thus a little less addictive, too. Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan, but it isn’t particularly bad. It’s just not as sugary as I’d like it to be (which is probably a good thing, as reluctant as I am to say so).

To tell you the truth, Vanilla and Chocolate Chip are the only varieties I’ve tried. (What can I say? I’m boring—and these bars aren’t cheap. I’m not exactly going to jump at the opportunity to throw an additional $5 at a box of granola bars that may or may not suck.) Cascadian Farm makes a bunch of other chewy bars, though—Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Dark Chocolate Cranberry Trail Mix, Harvest Berry, Oatmeal Raisin, Peanut Butter Chip, and Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter—as well as a few crunchy bars, protein bars, soft-baked squares, and some loose granola, too. All of the above should be safe, too—provided the box in question is without a “may contain” warning of any sort.

Find Cascadian Farm’s products all over the place: at Target, Walmart, Food Emporium (RIP, my dying friend), ShopRite, Whole Foods, Key Food, Morton Williams, Stop & Shop, and probably a whole lot of other stores, too.

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Burger King

A Whopper with regular fries and Chicken Fries

Burger King. Yeah—that’s what I’m about to write about. We’ll get through all this corporate capitalization together, though. I promise.

Forget introductions, though. Let’s just dive right in. (This is Burger King, after all. Home of the Whopper. Home of the Whopperito. Home of All Those Weird-Ass “Long” Sandwiches. These are the folks who brought us Mac n’ Cheetos. These are the folks who brought us the Egg-normous Burrito. In the world of Burger King, there’s no attempt at nuance or subtlety. There are no appetizers; there’s no easing you in. There are just Tendercrisps and Tendergrills and Grilled Dogs and fucking Croissan’wiches. Shit’s vulgar. Why should I ease us into this with an intro?)

According to their allergen chart, nothing at Burger King contains tree nuts of any sort. (The Reese’s pie and the Snickers pie do contain peanuts, though—just something to be aware of.) For peace of mind, I avoid the pies, the cookies, and the rather lewd-looking Otis Spunkmeyer Cinnamon Rolls (sorry, but come on!)—but in my experience, everything else has been totally safe. So. There’s that.

Moving on.

Most of the time, I’ll order a Whopper, but if I’m not in the mood for a slab of nasty-ass beef(-ish product), I’ll often go for a Tendercrisp (which is, on a good day, about sixteen times better than a Buttermilk Crispy Chicken). I like the Tendercrisp—the fried chicken is indeed pretty tender (though not all that crisp), and the tomatoes are, for the most part, inoffensive. Plus, there’s mayo. I like mayo.

Third in my hierarchy is the Big Fish: an often-worse Filet-O-Fish, and a monstrosity that I reserve for my hungriest, most desperate days. It’s just Alaskan pollock, breaded and topped with tartar sauce, pickles, and lettuce—and it’ll do the trick in a pinch, I guess. (I do ask them to hold the lettuce, though. That shit tastes like E. coli.)

As sides go, I’m really into Burger King’s mozzarella sticks (which aren’t on their American menu, but which are definitely available at some American Burger Kings). They’re gross, sure…but they’re really creamy, and I can’t deny that I’m a fan. When warm, the Chicken Fries (plain, not Cheeto-dusted) are good, too—they remind me of the long, peppery Burger King chicken nuggets of my childhood—and though they’re a little expensive, I’ll usually spring for them over regular nuggets.

My favorite Burger King offering, though, is definitely the chocolate shake (sorry, the Chocolate Hand Spun Shake, Which Is Totally Hand-Spun, We Swear). Though the chocolate syrup is a little overbearing, the shake, as a whole, is pretty tasty—and its whipped cream topping makes for a good french fry dip, should you run out of ketchup.

Chicken fries and regular fries

Forget favorites, though. What fun is praise, anyway? The folks at Burger King have clearly lost their minds, and I’m now going to take a few minutes out of my day to warn you about the menu items you shouldn’t, under any circumstances, consider ordering. Here we go.

First off, the Whopperito (a “burger-burrito mashup” made from…everything that goes into a Whopper, with some minor adjustments) is fucking disgusting. That goes without saying, I know—but it’s fucking disgusting nonetheless. I like fast food. I like Burger King. I even like Whoppers. But the Whopperito is an obvious, obvious cry for attention, and it’s nasty as hell. (Seriously: that thing makes Taco Bell seem like fine dining. It’s horrifying.)

How do I know? Because I’ve tried it. I know it’s bad because I’ve paid to eat it—because Burger King owns me, my soul, and my wallet, and because I’m powerless in the face of advertising of any sort, it seems. Sure, I ate it ironically—all I’d wanted was to laugh at the thing. And I did. But in that situation, who’s the winner? It certainly wasn’t me, belly full of Whopperito, money lining The Burger King’s pockets. It’s Burger King. The winner’s always Burger King. So much for ironic transcendence.

Also terrible are the Mac n’ Cheetos: another cry for attention whose transparency has done approximately nothing to keep me away. They’re essentially just breaded bits of mac and cheese that have been coated with Cheetos dust, but they’re way, way more than the sum of their parts. They are so much worse than I ever could’ve imagined—it’s insane. (I haven’t yet tried the Cheetos Chicken Fries, and I’m not exactly planning on it. I’ve been burned, I guess.)

Anyway: I’ve been pretty mean, but I do like Burger King, for what it is. Plus, when I remember to use the coupons they offer through their app, I rarely spend more than $15 on a meal for two—a welcome relief, given how much I’m usually roped into spending on food.

Find Burger King all over. (If you’re in the mood for a particularly strange experience, though, consider stopping by the Burger King at 106 Liberty Street. They do table service—and they sell beer.)

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A La Mode Shoppe

Signage outside A La Mode Shoppe

Ice-cream shops don’t tend to be very allergy-friendly. Too many nutty flavors, too many nutty toppings, ice cream that’s likely cross-contaminated by the time it leaves its production facility, and virtually no practices in place to prevent further cross-contamination in-store—by now, you know the deal. Probably, you stick to store-bought pints. Or perhaps you’ve learned to make your own frozen treats. Whatever the particulars, you likely steer clear of ice cream shops. Fine.

But A La Mode Shoppe is not your average ice-cream shop. Not only is their facility completely nut-free (and egg-free and sesame-free, with a bunch of dairy- and gluten-free options, too)—it also doubles as a children’s boutique, crawling with clothes, toys, and (of course) children. Lots of children.

[Hyphen count, so far: 12. 12!]

A sign at

I’ll admit it: I find the whole boutique-toy-store thing repellent, but that’s just because I’m neither a 4-year-old child nor the parent of one. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with the place. It’s warm and clean and charming, even—and the employees are truly some of the friendliest I’ve ever come across. But A La Mode just isn’t my scene. (I don’t particularly like screaming children, nor do I want to be anywhere near their ice cream–coated fingers. Plus, they always order the cotton candy–flavored shit. I know they’re young, but I blame them anyway.)

Regardless, pretty much anywhere that’s nut-free is, in some sense, very much my scene, so I find myself at A La Mode pretty often.

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Sure, 50% of the reason I stop by so often is because the whole place is decidedly nut-free, and I feel this nagging pressure to support it on principle alone. But the rest of the reason is that their ice cream is seriously delicious, and I really do crave it on a regular basis. Chocolate, Sea Salt Caramel, Wired (um, coffee), Strawberry, Pink Sprinkle (that’s vanilla, dyed pink), Blueberry Yogurt, Green Tea…they’re all wonderful, and I always have a hard time choosing what to order.

Sea Salt Caramel is one of the creamiest ice creams I’ve ever had, and Wired, though a little heavy on the coffee flavor, is truly addictive. Blueberry Yogurt, tangy as it is, makes me feel worlds better about no longer being able to eat at Pinkberry (they weren’t always such a nutty business, you know), and Green Tea is great, too, with a strong, bitter flavor that provides a nice relief from A La Mode’s other super-sweet offerings. Even the vanillas—Vanilla Bean and Pink Sprinkle (pictured immediately below)—are worthwhile. (Think Häagen-Dazs, but perhaps a bit softer.)

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My only complaint, really, is that the selection’s absurdly inconsistent. I get it—it’s small-batch, and variety’s the spice of life, etc., etc., etc. But the Wired and Sea Salt Caramel are only around, like, 50% of the time, and Blueberry Yogurt—my friend, Blueberry Yogurt—is a bona fide rarity, which sucks indeed. Going to A La Mode is always a crapshoot; fortunately, though, none of the flavors are half bad, so you’ll never really find yourself all that disappointed. (Actually, Partly Cloudy—that’s cotton candy with marshmallows in it, I think—is pretty bad. But if you, a reasoning/reasonable adult, freely choose to eat cotton candy–flavored ice cream…well, you deserve what’ll come to you.)

In all, though, I’d say this place is certainly worth the trip to godforsaken Midtown East. But beware: they close at 8pm, and they aren’t open on Mondays. (Also, they often close to host private events. If you’re planning on going out of your way for their ice cream, consider making sure they’ll be open to the public.)

Find A La Mode Shoppe at 360 East 55th Street, between 1st and 2nd. And if you’re looking for pints, you just might be able to find them at ShopRite or Morton Williams. (A La Mode is just now beginning to make its way into stores. Keep an eye out.)

[That’s 23 hyphens, by the way. Compounds have taken-me-hostage. Send help.]

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S’MAC: 2,594,124 types of mac and cheese

A Mongo-size plate of mac and cheese from S'MAC

I love mac and cheese. I love customizable food. I love restaurants that just happen not to have any nuts in the kitchen. It follows, then, that I should love S’MAC—and I sort of do.

According to S’MAC’s allergen chart, there are no tree nuts on site. (There are, however, peanuts in the peanut butter cookies, but I’m told those are made elsewhere.) I don’t believe the folks at S’MAC do much to ensure all their ingredients are 100% free from cross-contamination, so I’ve categorized them as “technically not nut-free,” but still: as ordinary restaurants go, S’MAC feels pretty low-risk. I trust them, and I’ve never regretted doing so…for allergy related reasons, at least.

See, S’MAC is sort of like the Domino’s of mac and cheese. They’re open late-ish, they deliver, and anything goes when it comes to toppings and mix-ins. There are pre-set options on the menu, but most of S’MAC’s appeal lies the freedom they offer—freedom to get whatever the hell you want cooked into a mass of cheese-covered starch. Like at Domino’s, the draw is not the quality of the final product (nor is it the restaurant’s atmosphere, or the friendliness of its employees). Instead, it’s, um…the fact that they sell mac and cheese. With lots of shit in it, if that’s your thing.

Don’t get me wrong; their food isn’t terrible. There’s nothing horribly wrong with it (aside from its total lack of crispiness and/or crustiness of any sort). It’s better than Kraft, and it’s a lot more fun than Annie’s—but it’s nowhere near as good as what you can (probably) whip up from scratch, given a solid recipe and some decent ingredients. But who can be moved to make mac and cheese from scratch when S’MAC is, like, a 10-minute walk from Union Square? (Lots of people, obviously. Not me, though!)

Mac and cheese from S'MAC

At S’MAC, mac and cheese makes up the vast majority of the menu, and it comes in four sizes: Nosh (small), Major Munch (medium), Mongo (large), and Partay! (larger). A Major Munch is probably a fair size for one hungry person, but a Mongo can easily feed two, should your wallet be thin (and your dining partner agreeable). Pricing makes no sense, though—sometimes, they’ll charge you per mix-in; sometimes, they’ll charge you for bread crumbs; sometimes, you’ll have no idea what they charged you for—so rather than trying to figure out what I’ll be paying, I tend to just choose what I want and then do my best to accept the bill. Such is life.

Mac and cheese from S'MAC

Should you choose to customize your bowl, S’MAC has about a trillion options available. Cheeses include American, blue, brie, mozzarella, cheddar, goat, gruyere, manchego, lite cheddar, muenster, parmesan, pecorino, pepper jack, swiss, and provolone. The mix-ins are parsley, rosemary, basil, cilantro, scallions, olives, mushrooms, roasted garlic, figs, broccoli, salsa, roasted tomatoes, jalapeños, buffalo sauce, spinach with garlic, chicken, hot dogs, andouille sausage, ground beef, tuna, bacon, and something called “garden medley.”

Now, if you’ll let me, I’d like to torture you all with a brief-ish math interlude. I spent a while harassing my dad (unhelpful), my boyfriend (more unhelpful), and a bunch of people on r/mathematics (bingo!) with this one, and I’m ready to share—with permission!—what I’ve learned.

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So. There are a lot of possible outcomes at S’MAC. Like, a lot a lot. How many, though? There are 15 cheeses, and you’re to choose up to 2. At minimum, you’ll need 1—assuming you aren’t going with the dairy-free option. There are 22 mix-ins, and you can choose up to 3, though you don’t have to order any. You can choose whether to get bread crumbs, and you can choose what type of macaroni you’d like (regular, multi-grain, or gluten-free). You can also choose to go reduced-lactose (which still allows for cheeses) or dairy-free (which doesn’t, obviously). That’s a lot of decisions.

If you don’t go dairy-free, there are 120 possible cheese outcomes, including those that involve only one cheese. With regard to mix-ins, there are 1,794 possible outcomes, including the choice of no mix-ins, and excluding anything that involves a double mix-in (i.e. scallions, three times). There are only 2 possible outcomes for bread crumbs—some, or none—and 3 for macaroni type. And there are 3 possible outcomes in the realm of dairy, with the dairy-free choice ruling out the option of adding any cheeses. Ergo…

To account for the dairy-inclusive options: 120 * 1,794 * 2 * 3 * 2 = 2,583,360 possible outcomes. And to account for the dairy-free option: 1 *  1,794 * 2 * 3 * 1 = 10,764 possible outcomes. Add those together, and you get 2,594,124 possible S’MAC outcomes. I hope. (For what it’s worth, I figured out approximately none of that on my own. My efforts led me to a figure that was, like, twice the actual answer. No idea why. There’s a reason I’m studying English.)

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With all those options, it’s naturally pretty tough to decide what to order. The pre-sets don’t do it for me, so I almost always build my own bowl. Personally, I like to go with some combination of mozzarella, gruyere, and swiss, cheese-wise, and then some scallions and a combination of herbs for my mix-ins. I’ve been known to enjoy a mushroom or two on occasion, too, but most days, though, I just stick with my scallions and herbs. (What can I say? I have a thing for repeating meals.) And in a futile attempt to crisp up the top layer, I always go for “bread crumbs”—which I’m pretty sure are just cornmeal, à la Domino’s.

Mac and cheese from S'MAC

Most days, the final product is decent, but it’s never anything special. (There are exceptions to the whole mostly-decent thing, though. Their goat cheese is pretty bad, for example. And unwelcome figs have a habit of popping up in my otherwise fig-less bowls.) I wish the macaroni were the slightest bit al dente. I wish the “bread crumbs” were bread crumbs, and I wish the cheese on top and around the edges were a little crispier. But when you stick your fork in it, mac and cheese is mac and cheese—and S’MAC’s is quick, easy, and highly customizable. (And, you know, nut-free.)

Find S’MAC at 345 East 12th Street, between 1st and 2nd. (And if you can’t bring yourself to dine under their super-yellow lights, consider going Take & Bake.)

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Sushi on Jones

Sushi on Jones

Remember David Bouhadana, the sushi chef who got his restaurant shut down after a spat with the DOH over their rigid, rigid glove rules? Well, Bouhadana lost his job at Sushi Dojo—but he’s back, serving up fresh DOH-agita at his new open-air (read: outdoor as fuck) sushi spot. And yes, his chefs are wearing gloves.

Located in The Bowery Market, Sushi on Jones is not your average sushi spot. Sure, it’s home to a few recognizable motifs—a sushi bar, white-coated chefs, a mostly-classic omakase—but there are only six seats, and with a reservation (which you’ll have made via text), you’ll be in and out in under 40 minutes. Water comes in Poland Spring bottles, green tea comes in cans, and Kid Cudi just might form the soundtrack to your meal (if you can hear whatever their iPod’s playing over the sirens and motorcycle revs of NoHo). Strange dogs on those godforsaken extendo-leashes may sniff at your feet, and pigeons will probably feast upon your fallen ginger. Such is the Sushi on Jones experience.

Suffice it to say, then, that this place is a little offbeat. Unorthodox. Quirky, if you will. Fortunately, though, their sushi’s pretty traditional—which means nothing New-Agey, nothing cream-cheesy, and, of course, nothing nutty. I spent a week or two sporadically poking around online in an attempt to find an email address or (call-able) phone number at which I could direct my nut-related questions, but no such things existed, nor did their iPhone-manner ever respond to my message about allergens. So I resigned myself to just showing up, asking about nuts, and hoping for a promising answer.

Sam and I ended up stopping by one Saturday night around 8pm. Immediately, a woman—she was sort of a waitress, but there isn’t much waiting to do at Sushi on Jones—asked if she could help us. I asked my usual questions (“Any nuts? Shared kitchen? Reason to worry?”), to which she responded with the best answers I could’ve hoped for: no nuts, no shared kitchen, no reason to worry. She even sent the manager out to confirm, and that he did. Lovely.

Now, getting a seat isn’t hard, but it isn’t the easiest thing in the world, either. That night, we couldn’t get a reservation via text—I’d sent a text with a few times that worked for us, but all I received in response was a “sorry not tonight.” Fine. But when I asked in person 15 minutes later, they were happy to give me a reservation within a few minutes of one of times I’d originally asked for. Weird, but whatever. We were just happy to have gotten a spot.

When our time came, we made our way back to Sushi on Jones and were seated within 10 minutes of our arrival. Sam and I were the only two seated at the (two-stool) second counter, which is actually on Great Jones Street, rather than a few feet into the market, where the main counter is. Our little area was dark (really dark, hence the heinous backlit iPhone photos I’ve included with below, and the Google-supplied Grub Street photo at the top of this post—which was taken by Noah Fecks, by the way), but sitting off to the side was nice, if only because we were that much farther away from the loud-ass group of four sitting at the other counter. (They kept yelling—yelling—about “eel sauce.” Their chef looked tired.)

Anyway, as soon as we were seated—and as soon as the waitress had asked us if we had any other dietary restrictions—it was food time. At Sushi on Jones, there’s only one option: the 12-piece omakase ($50), though you can order additional pieces (as well as their signature WagUni—torched wagyu and uni—hand roll) à la carte once you’ve finished. In an attempt to be frugal (yeah, right) Sam and I stuck to the omakase—but by the time we left, we were both pretty damn satisfied.

That night, my favorite pieces were the yellowtail, the uni, the Arctic char, and the WagUni (sushi, not hand roll). The yellowtail was unbelievably flavorful, the uni was sweet and briny, and the Arctic char was pleasantly creamy. All were topped with a soy glaze, and some were topped with bits of pepper or crushed ginger—with the exception of the WagUni, which was topped with truffle salt, and which was probably my favorite bite of the night.

Maybe I’m biased—undercooked wagyu and uni are seriously two of my favorite things in the entire world—but goddamn, that thing was good. The photo I’ve included below does the WagUni absolutely no justice whatsoever, so here’s a better one from The Bowery Market’s official Instagram. (Drool away. I’ll be here.)

My least favorite bites were probably the scallop (not bad, but not for me), the eel (also not bad, also not for me), and the crab (fine, but boring). I was also a little underwhelmed by the medium fatty tuna, which seemed a lot leaner than it should’ve been. (Still, it wasn’t bad—chutoro’s chutoro, after all.) The weaker pieces didn’t bother me much, though. I thoroughly enjoyed pretty much everything about Sushi on Jones, and I’m already plotting my return. If only I could’ve talked myself into shelling out an additional $12 for a WagUni hand roll…

By the way, our sushi chef was wonderful. After we’d finished the omakase, he asked what our favorite piece had been so he could give us another set, on the house. (“I like you guys,” he said. “You’re quiet.” With a smile, he gestured to the sign above the counter: “Less talk, more eat. Mucho arigato.”) We went with the obvious choice—WagUni—and then he offered us another free piece each, at which point we asked him to give us whatever he recommended. A minute later, he presented us with another round of fatty tuna, which was noticeably better than our first serving. So good. Go figure.

By now, it should be clear that I’m a big fan of Sushi on Jones. I love the food, the location, the speed, the ambiance, the overall concept…I could go on. The sushi, while undeniably good, isn’t the city’s best, but it isn’t meant to be—it’s something else entirely, and it’s a whole lot of fun. The whole place is unique-as-can-be, but not in the nasty, off-putting way a lot of Unique™ sushi joints are so. Plus, it’s allergy-friendly. Let’s not forget about that.

…Actually, let’s. Sitting at Sushi on Jones, I don’t feel acutely like a Person With Food Allergies, which is how I feel at a lot of the places I frequent just because they’re safe for me. It’s a cool place, and I’d definitely still stop by if I could eat wherever I wanted. And that, to me, is incredibly exciting.

(Seriously, though: Do yourself a favor and read up on Bouhadana’s glove kerfuffle with the DOH. It’s genuinely interesting—and funny as hell, too—and everyone and their mother has weighed in. Plus, the debate prompted one of my my all-time favorite Anthony Bourdain quotes: “This is not Subway, for fuck’s sake. This is something people have dedicated their lives to. No. You know which team I’m on.”)

Find Sushi on Jones at the entrance to The Bowery Market, which is itself located at 348 Bowery, between Great Jones and 4th.

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